Driving on a Suspended or Revoked License

Penalties for the charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license can include fines and jail time, with increased sentences for repeat offenders.

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In every state, drivers who have been convicted of specified driving violations and other offenses may have their driving privileges suspended or revoked, in addition to other consequences. When the underlying offense is driving-related, the suspension is intended as a way to provide for safety on the public roads. When the triggering offense is not driving-related, the rationale is more indirect: suspending a driver’s license for a parent who owes child support is a powerful way to encourage payment. Click here to find the laws in your state.

Police may not stop you just because they suspect you're driving without a valid license. For more information, see Driving Without a License: Presenting Proof of a Valid License.

Reasons for License Suspension or Revocation

Suspensions or revocations are common for highway-related offenses, such as driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and for other driving violations involving reckless behavior, such as speeding, racing, and hit-and-run. Suspensions are particularly likely for drivers who are persistent violators, who have amassed a minimum number of “points” against their licenses, and who have committed a felony using a vehicle. Some states allow suspension for any driving activity that would justify a refusal to issue the license in the first place.

Motorists who have caused an accident and who have no insurance or other financial ability to cover damage and injuries may also face license suspensions. Suspension is also commonly a consequence of failing to pay child support. Some states allow for suspension on the grounds of a driver’s disability, including visual impairment, epilepsy, age, and diabetes.

Mechanics of Suspension or Revocation

Depending on the state, either courts or state agencies (such as departments of motor vehicles) have the power to suspend or revoke licenses. Some state agencies have wide latitude in deciding whether to suspend, with the authority to do so when, in their opinion, enabling the driver to continue to drive will compromise public safety.

Suspension and Bankruptcy

Some drivers have challenged the continuing validity of their license suspensions after they have filed for bankruptcy. In a typical scenario, a driver who is at fault in an auto accident fails to pay a money judgment to the victim, and has her license suspended as a result. The driver files for bankruptcy, which wipes out the debt, then seeks reinstatement of the license on the grounds that the underlying judgment, which triggered the suspension, is now gone. Courts are split on the outcome—some will reinstate the license, others will not.

Occupational and Ignition Interlock Restricted Licenses

Under certain circumstances, drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked can apply for restricted licenses, which allow them to drive during the period of suspension or revocation.

Occupational restricted licenses typically allow drivers to drive to work, school, community service, or certain other activities, with restrictions including the times of day, days of week, and areas to which they may drive.

Drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for certain alcohol or drug-related offenses can apply for ignition interlock restricted licenses.  These licenses permit them to drive if they use an ignition interlock device, which tests breath for alcohol consumption, installed in their car.   

Conditions for Reinstatement

When a license is suspended, it will remain so for a specified period of time.  Similarly, when a license is revoked, the driver will be barred from applying for a new license for a certain period of time. In addition to waiting through the time period, drivers typically must fulfill certain conditions before the license is reinstated or before they are eligible to apply for a new license. Conditions for reinstatement are often in addition to any jail time or fines. Typical conditions include:

  • participation in drug or alcohol evaluation and treatment
  • proof of financial responsibility (such as liability insurance or proof of financial ability)
  • payment of child support in arrears, and
  • payment of a reinstatement fee.

In some states, drivers with suspended licenses who fulfill the reinstatement conditions and have waited the specified amount of time before commencing driving may do so without an official okay from either the court or a regulating agency. In other states, drivers must wait for the court or agency to acknowledge the driver’s successful completion, at which time the court will take steps to affirmatively reinstate the license.  Drivers who have had a license revoked must reapply for a new license.

Challenging Conditions for Reinstatement

Courts generally agree that although driving is a privilege and not a right, it is also a necessary part of many peoples’ lives, enabling them to get to work and school. Because driving is so crucial, the state should not arbitrarily deny a person’s right to the restoration of his license. Many suspension laws’ conditions for reinstatement have been challenged as exceeding the police power of the state, violating due process, and being unconstitutionally vague. In most instances, the statutes have been upheld against these challenges.

Motorists who believe that a condition for reinstatement is unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful must challenge the condition at the time the license is suspended. If they wait until they are caught while driving on the suspended license and seek to raise the illegality of the condition for reinstatement at the ensuing hearing or trial, courts will usually deny them this opportunity.

Penalties

Drivers sometimes begin driving while their license is still suspended or revoked (and without a valid restricted license). Doing so results in a charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license. Penalties can include fines and jail time, with increased sentences for repeat offenders.

Sometimes drivers begin driving after the suspension period has expired, but before they have completed any additional conditions, like the ones described above. When that happens, courts react in one of two ways:

  • the license continues to be suspended until the conditions are met, which means that the driver will be guilty of driving on a suspended license, or
  • the driver will be guilty of driving without a valid license.

The distinction noted above can be significant, because the penalties for driving on a suspended license versus driving without a valid license are likely to be different.

State Specific Laws

The chart below sumarizes how your state penalizes driving on a suspended license. Click the link for any state to be taken to an in-depth article that explains the system for that state in detail.

State Avg. Fines Points Traffic School License Suspension Rate Jail
Alabama $100-$500 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. No, but judge and case specific circumstances allow for traffic school as means of dismissing ticket Possible extension on license suspension. Possible jail sentence of not more than 180 days; immediate vehicle impoundment.
Alaska $500-$1,000 10 points, premiums on insurance will probably increase or policy might be terminated. Yes, more than 6 points in a year for provision license holders. Traffic school can be used once annually to reduce overall point total Suspension possible. 10 days in prison, possible forfeiture of vehicle.
Arizona $300-$500 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Not required, but voluntary attendance will dismiss ticket and avoid being placed on driving record Additional suspension possible. At least 48 hours in jail, possible forfeiture of vehicle.
Arkansas Up to $500 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Case specific, but potentially required License revocation on case specific basis 2-6 months in prison.
California $300-$1,000 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, case specific, but one offense per eighteen months may be masked from public view if completing traffic school License suspension reinstatement automatically requires adminstrative hearing Up to 6 months in prison, possible forfeiture of vehicle.
Colorado $50-$500 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, case specific, but will not dimiss points from record Possible extension on license suspension. 5 days to 6 months in jail.
Connecticut First offense $150-$200, subsequent offense $200-$600 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. May be required by clerk, dismissal of fines or points possible through clerk approved traffic school arrangement Additional suspension possible. Up to 1 year imprisonment.
Delaware First offense $500-$1,000, subsequent offense $1,000-$4,000 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, case specific and required, may be used to reduce overall point count Suspension may be lengthened. First offense 30 days to 6 months in jail, subsequent offense 60 days to 1 year.
DC Up to $1,000 4 points, premiums on insurance will probably increase or policy might be terminated. Yes, may be required, and can be used as means of reducing point total Possible extension on license suspension. Possible jail time required.
Florida First offence $500, second offense $1,000, subsequent offense $5,000 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, and basic driver improvement courses are option for dimissing points Possible extension on license suspension. First offense up to 1 years, seubsequent offense up to 5 years.
Georgia Up to $1,000-$2,500 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, and potentially used for one violation reduction every five (5) years Accumulation of fifteen (15) points in two years results in suspension First offense 2 days to 12 months, subsequent offense 10 days to 1 year.
Hawaii Case specific, for DUI related suspension $250-$2,000. Point system not applicable in state, insurance rates will likely increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, may be mandated in event of serious offenses Case specific, in third offense license is permanently revoked. For suspension due to a DUI: first offense 3-30 days in jail, second offense 30 days, subsequent offense within five years is 1 year in jail.
Idaho First offense $500, second offense $1,000, subsequent offense $3,000. Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, once every three (3) years, drivers may reduce point total by three points License suspended for additional 6 months. 2 days to 6 months in jail.
Illinois Up to $2,500 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, required for some offenses, can be used as means of dismissing points in lieu of license suspension Suspension may be lengthened. Possible jail sentence and community service requirements, possible forfeiture of vehicle.
Indiana Up to $500 8 points Yes, driver safety program required in case specific situations and in lieu of point total nearing suspension levels Possible extension on license suspension. Up to 60 days in jail.
Iowa $250-$1,000 None, violation will probably increase insurance premium rates though or policy might be cancelled. Yes, courts may require driver improvement program License suspension possiblely lengthened. Possible jail time required.
Kansas At least $100 No point system in state, violation will likely raise insurance premiums rates if policy is not terminated. Yes, may be required, and may be done every three (3) years to garner better insurance premiums Possible extension on license suspension. At least 5 days in jail.
Kentucky Up to $250 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, can elect to attend once per year if eligible to dismiss violation for given offense causing attendance Additional suspension possible. First offense up to 90 days in jail and license suspended for additional 6 months, second offense 90 days to 1 years and possible one year license additional license suspension, subsequent offense 1-5 years in jail and up to two year additional license suspension.
Louisiana $500 No point system, reported to PDPS, insurance rates will probably increase. Yes, may be required, and can be used to suspend conviction of violation 1 year additional suspension. Up to 6 months in prision and 1 year additional license suspension.
Maine $250-$500, DUI related is $600 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, may be mandated, can be used to dimiss three (3) demerit points per one (1) year period For suspension due to DUI: 1 to 3 additional years license suspension. For suspension due to a DUI: 7 days in jail.
Maryland Up to $500 3-12 points, insurance premiums will probably increase or policy might be cancelled. None Possible extension on license suspension. 2 months in jail.
Massachusetts $500-$1,000 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, required if driver accumulates five (5) surchargeable events in three (3) years Possible additional suspension on license of 60 day for first offense and 1 year for second offense. First offense up to 10 days in prison, subsequent offense 60 days to 1 year.
Michigan $500-$1,000, may be more if injury or death were caused while driving with license suspended. Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, potentially mandated Additional suspension possible. First offense up to 93 days in jail, second offense up to 1 year.
Minnesota Up to $1,000 None, violations may increase insurance premium rates though Yes, courts may require driver imporvement course in lieu of or on top of existing offenses Suspension may be lengthened. Possible jail time required.
Mississippi $200-$500 No point system in state, premiums on insurance will probably rise. Yes, potentially mandated, but can be used to dimiss offenses Possible additional 6 months suspention on license. 48 hours to 6 months in jail.
Missouri Up to $1,000 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, either mandated or voluntarily undergone to reduce point total Additional suspension possible. Either 48 hours in jail or comminity service required.
Montana Up to $500 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, potentially mandated as sanction, but will not reduce or dismiss points License possibly suspended for additional 1 year. 2 days to 6 months in jail.
Nebraska Up to $500 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, possibly mandated as sanction, but also, can be used to remove 2 points every five (5) years First offense additional suspension for 1 year, subsequent offense additional suspension for 2 years. Possible jail time required.
Nevada $500-$1,000 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, potentially required, but also, can be used once per one (1) year period to reduce points voluntarily Additional suspension possible. First offense 30 days to 6 months in jail, subsequent offense up to 1 year.
New Hampshire $1,000 4 points, premiums on insurance will probably increase or policy might be terminated. Yes, required in some instances and as possible means of reducing points Additional 1 year suspension. 7 periods of 24 hours to be spent in jail within 6 months.
New Jersey $1,000 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, case pending may be required, otherwise can be used to remove 2 points from record Possible extension on license suspension. 30 days in jail.
New Mexico Up to $1,000 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, may be mandated or voluntarily undergone for points reduction Additional 1 year suspension. 4 to 364 days in jail.
New York $200-$500 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, potentially required in specific cases, and may be used to remove up to 4 points in some cases License suspension possiblely lengthened. At least 30 days in jail.
North Carolina $500-$2,500 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, driver improvement clinics may be mandated, and can be used once every five (5) years for 3 point reduction Additional license suspension for first offense 1 year, second offense is 2 years, on third offense license is permanently revoked. Possible jail time required.
North Dakota $250-$1,000 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, and driver may elect to undergo driver improvement course once annually to reduce by 2 points Suspension may be lengthened. 4 days in prison, license plate may be impounded.
Ohio Up to $1,000 6 points, premiums on insurance will likely increase or policy might be cancelled. Yes, remedial dirving instruction may be legally required to reinstate driving priviledges Possible extension on license suspension. License plate may be impounded.
Oklahoma $100-$500 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. Yes, potentially mandated, but also can be used to reduce 2 points Possible extension on license suspension. Up to 1 year imprisonment.
Oregon First offense at least $1,000, subsequent offense at least $2,000. No point system, premiums on insurance will probably increase. Yes, if mandated, but not possible to reduce offense total Additional license suspension. Possible jail sentence.
Pennsylvania $200, if suspension was due to DUI: $1,000 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, if mandated as sanction, but not means of reducing violation or dismissing points License is suspended for additional 1 year. For DUI related suspension: at least 90 days in jail.
Rhode Island First offense $250-$500, subsequent offense $350-$1,000. No point system, premiums on insurance will probably increase. Yes, if mandated by licensing authority Additional 1 years suspension on license. First offense up to 30 days in jail, subsequent up to 1 year in jail.
South Carolina First offense $300, second is $600, subsequent is $1,000. Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, potentially mandated and means of removing 4 points Suspension may be lengthened. First offense up to 30 days in jail, subsequent up to 60 days, subsequent 90 days to 6 months.
South Dakota $200 Violation may increase premiums on insurance or result in policy being cancelled. No Possible additional suspension time. 30 days in jail, license is suspended for additional 1 year.
Tennessee $500 8 points, violation may increase insurance premiums or result in termination of policy. Yes, may be mandated, and drivers may reduce points through course once every five (5) years Possible additional suspension time. Up to 6 months in prison.
Texas $250 Expect insurance premiums to increase or policy may be cancelled. Yes, potentially required, and may be used to dismiss violation Suspension is reinstated for amount of time originally sentenced. Possible jail time required.
Utah $750 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, possibly court mandated, and if necessary, can be used once every three (3) years to remove 50 points Suspension may be lengthened. Up to 6 months in jail.
Vermont Up to $5,000 4 points, premiums on insurance will probably increase or policy might be terminated. Yes, possibly required as part of license reinstatement Additional license suspension possible. Up to 2 years in prison and community service time required.
Virginia $1,000 6 points, premiums on insurance will likely increase or policy might be cancelled. Yes, driver improvement clinic may be required, and possibly used to offset 5 demerit points License suspension may be lengthened. Vehicle may be impounded for 90 days.
Washington Up to $500 No point system, premiums on insurance will probably increase. Yes, potentially required by court authority Additional license suspension time required. First offense is 10 days in jail, second offense is 90 days, subsequent offense is 180 days.
West Virginia $500 Insurance premiums will probably rise or policy can be cancelled. Yes, drivers may be legally bound to attend, and attendance may reduce points as well Possible extension on license suspension. Up to 6 months in prison.
Wisconsin First offense is $600, second offense is $1,000, subsequent offense is $2,000. 6 points, premiums on insurance will likely increase or policy might be cancelled. Yes, sometimes required, but voluntarily taken can reduce points by 3 every five (5) years Possible additional suspension time. Second offense up to 6 months in jail, subsequent offense up to 9 months.
Wyoming $750 No point system, premiums on insurance will probably increase. No Suspension may be lengthened. Up to 6 months in jail.

Getting A Lawyer For A Suspended License

Many complictions can potentially arise when charged with any type of driving violation. To help allievate some of these problems, it is usually best to contact a qualified lawyer. Get a free case evaluation from an experienced lawyer in your area.

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